Structures, water, computers, languages and people (not necessarily in this order)

Masonry bridges diagnosis

Despite the common belief is that the language used by engineers exclusively consists of cold technical expressions; in masonry bridges the opposite occurs. Thus, engineers assign human qualities along the restoration and conservation phases of masonry bridges, playing the role of a doctor according to the illness of the structure. The metaphor between building techniques and medicine becomes evident in the terminological correspondences.

About one year ago, I have had the opportunity to design a solution to extend the use of a couple of stone bridges (in the pics you can see one of them) by performing a structural damage analysis. This is not an unfrequent situation: engineers can find many of these old contructions in the roads of Galicia and the North of Portugal and, believe me, it is a challenging issue.

Central arch of the bridge, close to Ourense (left). Analysis with RING (right).

FE Analysis with Cosmos/m

Unfortunately, masonry is quite difficult to analyse without proper tests that cost a lot of money and I realised that finite element models of stone arch bridges give good
estimations of deformations but inaccurate ultimate failure loads. The best software tool I found was the RING program developed at the University of Sheffield that is based on the theory of Jacques Heyman. This software is freeware, easy and rapid to run and provides better results than common finite element packages.


  1. Yes, it is me again. I started another blog.

  2. It´s a very great thing, to keep historic heritage proudly useful with the help of the new technical progress.
    About medical terms in engineering, I once broke a part of the engine of my car. That seemed not to be the first as the builder redesigned it totally. It took more than usual for the new spare parts to arrive, and when they came, one was missing. My dealer was rather altered because he didn´t know "what the fuck" it was, and neither those at central store in Madrid did. They only knew it was called "mamelon".
    I got curious about that word and as I got home, searched it's meaning: the french word to say "nipple", "pezón" in Spanish.
    Ok, that was a kind of pipe where the filter "sucks" oil. Natural :D.

  3. Mr. Miguez, watch your language! :-P The f-word sounds quite stronger in English than its translation does in Spanish. We Spaniards are swearing around all day without giving much importance to it, but using the equivalent words in English sounds terribly rude.

    Conversely, English speakers who are learning Spanish need to put some extra "bad-words" in their speech :-) Fortunately, they even have BBC courses to help them with it (I find the audio of this course hilarious):

  4. Thanks god there is the BBC!! Otherwise the poor English fellows would just learn "Servesa", "Toros", "Paela" and "ole" and would miss all the lyricism of Spanish.

    The marketing is also great: If you had to choose between "Spanish" and "Cool Spanish" which one would you choose?

    It is a pity that I have never studied "Cool English", it would have been very useful to have a chance to understand the cool hoodies of my neighbourhood.

  5. Let me blame most of my English teachers, those Metallica, Sex Pistols, Rage Against The Machine, and many others... :S